Video: Food giants call for tougher deforestation rules

Supermarkets, food manufacturers, and restaurant chains urged the UK government to strengthen a plan to stop tropical forests from being cut down.

Editor’s note:
The following is a transcript of the accompanying video. ©2020 Thomson Reuters.

When it comes to deforestation in countries like Brazil and Indonesia, the global food industry has a lot to answer for. Britain is drawing up legislation to force the sector to tighten oversight of its supply chains. But 20 large companies say it’s not enough. In an open letter, supermarkets like Tesco, Marks & Spencer, and Morrisons and food manufacturers like Unilever and Nestlé welcomed the legislation plans as a “step forward” but said “it’s not currently envisioned to be enough to halt deforestation, and we encourage the government to go further”.

Under [the] proposed plan, large companies would have to report on how they source tropical commodities, such as cocoa, palm oil, and soy. The companies would also be banned from using products that are harvested illegally in their country of origin.

But companies say the proposed new law has a major loophole: Farmers in developing countries can often clear forests to grow cash crops for export without breaking any laws. The companies want the new British rules to apply to all deforestation — not just in cases where the destruction is illegal.

Campaign group Mighty Earth said the proposed legislation would continue to allow rampant deforestation in hotspots such as Indonesia and Brazil.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said: “Brazil is the country that preserves the environment the most. Some don’t understand that. It’s the country that suffers the most attacks from abroad regarding its environment.”

Deforestation and forest fires this year have emitted around 250 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to annual emissions of 48.8 million cars.